CLEARFIELD – A local Catholic school is proudly celebrating 125 years in its community.
The St. Francis Catholic School of Clearfield was congratulated on its milestone by the county commissioners during Tuesday’s board work session.
The commissioners signed a proclamation for Principal Sheila Clancy, who brought her fourth- through eighth-graders from Student Council to witness the event.
According to its Web site, the school opened its doors in 1893. It was located on the land now occupied by the church parking lot. The sisters of St. Joseph were placed in charge of the school.
During its first decade, the school proved viable and was ready for larger facilities. A new school, made of Clearfield brick and housing five classrooms; an auditorium; and a kitchen, were built at a cost of $20,000.
The weekly newspaper, The Clearfield Republican, described it as “one of the most modern and comfortable school buildings in the county.” Classes began in the new building in November of 1904.
In 1908, Sister Marie Francis became the school’s second principal. During her 25 years as principal, the school matured both academically and athletically.
According to the Web site, full academic and commercial courses were developed, and in 1919, the high school was certified by the Department of Public Instruction.
By the late 1920’s, St. Francis School was ready to expand once again. More classrooms were needed, so the auditorium was sacrificed.
In 1957, a complete overhaul of the building was begun. Five new classrooms, a new library, a new kitchen, two offices, a health suite, a gymnasium/auditorium and the familiar facade the school has today were all constructed.
The necessity of the expansion was highlighted by 1963 enrollment figures, which had been the highest in St. Francis history: 358 grade school students and 141 students in the high school.
In 1974, many operational and structural changes began. A school uniform was introduced, a kindergarten program was started in 1976 and as an economic necessity, St. Francis began charging a tuition fee.
Structurally, the school began another major construction project. A wing on the south side of the school was built to house a new library and a new cafeteria.
According to the Web site, “many changes have taken place since that day in 1893 when three sisters first opened the doors to St. Francis School. There is no longer a high school, but the school now houses preschool through grade eight.
“Technology has become an important part of classroom instruction. Classes are offered in music, art, library, religion, technology and physical education. Students take classes in four different languages and cultures.
“With all the of the changes in faculty, facilities and curriculum at St. Francis over the years, the factors that makes St. Francis School special has not changed since 1893.
“The core of the school is still built on the foundations of Christian values and faith. When you enter St. Francis School, you become part of our family.”
Clancy, on behalf of Father Brandon Kleckner; the school’s faculty; and students, thanked the commissioners and Clearfield community for making the school “a long-standing tradition.”
“We’re very proud and thankful to Clearfield,” she said. On behalf of the commissioners, John A. Sobel, chairman, expressed it was their hope the school celebrates another 125 years.